By Sam McPherson
After another upset win on their home turf Sunday, the 2014 Oakland Raiders now have single-handedly led to the playoff elimination of the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills. And in truth, no one saw any of these three wins coming.READ MORE: Dramatic Pursuit Video: Brazen Driver Attempts To Elude Arrest By Driving Wrong Way; Two Attempted Carjackings
Week 16’s 26-24 victory over the Bills was just the third of the season for the Silver & Black, but all three have come at home in the last five weeks against playoff-contending teams. Oakland is no fluke on its home field, and that bodes well for 2015 as it appears the Raiders will sign a one-year lease extension to play in the Coliseum again.
The team closes out its home schedule with a 3-5 record, something no one would have thought possible earlier in the season when the team was 0-10 and facing history of the wrong kind. Congratulations are in order for interim Head Coach Tony Sparano and his staff for making something out of nothing here in the last month.
Derek Carr started off just 6-for-18 in this game, but he finished 17-for-34. The 214 yards weren’t a lot for that number of attempts, but that’s been an issue for the Raiders all season with their rookie quarterback. And the staff can address that challenge in the offseason. The key here was two touchdown throws and no interceptions. Carr also recovered his own fumble, and a goose egg in the turnover column is what Oakland likes to see out of a rookie QB.
One big positive in this game was the two long completions: a 51-yard toss to Andre Holmes in the fourth quarter that all but clinched the game for the Raiders and the 50-yard completion to Kenbrell Thompkins. It’s those kinds of deep passes that longtime Oakland owner Al Davis loved to see, and Carr has the potential to really elevate his game in 2015 and beyond. GRADE: B+
The Raiders had 347 yards of total offense against one of the best defenses in the NFL, and unlike Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers before him, Carr was able to find the end zone against the Bills—and without committing any turnovers. The 140 yards on the ground—on 39 carries—was an incredible way for the Oakland offense to keep the ball for almost 34 minutes in this contest.
Latavius Murray and Darren McFadden combined for 32 carries and all 140 of those yards. In addition, each running back busted off a 25-yard run at some point in the game. McFadden’s big run came right after Holmes’ big grab, and it set up the Raiders final TD of the day. Thompkins and Holmes had the big days receiving, thanks to those long completions, but overall, Carr found eight different receivers on the day against a very good defense. GRADE: A
DefenseREAD MORE: Driver Fatally Struck After Leaving Vehicle Involved In San Jose Collision
The Buffalo offense has some talented runners, but the Oakland defense stuffed them: 13 yards on 13 carries. That’s not a misprint. The run defense that was so sieve-like earlier in the year really came to play against the Bills. And when you stop the run like that, it gives any defense a chance to play the pass better than usual.
Journeyman QB Kyle Orton managed three TDs and 329 yards still, but he needed 49 throws to do it—and the Raiders intercepted him twice. Each of the main Buffalo receivers caught a touchdown, but the Silver & Black defense did just enough to hang on and win this one. Remember that early-season home loss to the San Diego Chargers when they couldn’t hold the lead? This time, they did. GRADE: B+
Punter Marquette King did his usual thing with a 44.2-yard average on six punts, and kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed four field goals in five attempts. He missed a 48-yard kick late in the fourth quarter with the team already up by nine points, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. GRADE: A-
Home Field Advantage: Oakland
Heading into 2015, the Raiders now know they can hold their own on the Coliseum turf. As the team prepares to close out 2014 with a road game in Denver next weekend against the Broncos, the Silver & Black could start focusing on how to win on the road—something they haven’t done since Week 11 in 2013.
But what a great way to end the 2014 home slate: three straight wins that helped knock three good teams out of playoff contention. When the Chiefs, the 49ers and the Bills look back at what went wrong for them this season, they’re going to see the Black Hole staring right back at them.
And that’s going to hurt.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.MORE NEWS: Family, Neighbors Stunned By San Francisco Teenage Girl's Murder; 'It Breaks My Heart'
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.